Beetle Bailey’s former smoker, Private Rocky, evokes my late sister’s memory

Back on May 12th, 2016, a Beetle Bailey comic strip appeared in the daily St. Louis Post-Dispatch that caught my eye and I added it to the newspaper pile on my office floor. That’s where it stayed until I recently did some office cleaning. The strip featured Private Rocky, described on-line as follows:

Camp Swampy’s long-haired, disgruntled social dissident; a former biker gang member and rebel-without-a-clue, introduced to the “BEETLE BAILEY” comic strip in 1958. This dude probably got into the US Army via a court order, where he was told, “Join up, or go to prison!” Definitely, he was a malcontent from “the wrong side of the tracks.” 


Beetle Bailey – By Mort and Greg Walker, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 5-12-2016

In this particular strip, Rocky is reminiscing from the days before he quit smoking and in the strip it’s funny. But it reminded me of a very unpleasant personal encounter with a cigar smoker after I had asked him to quit smoking in an airport area signed “No Smoking.”  Ironically, at the time I was flying to see my non-smoking sister living in England dying of lung cancer.

The above strip has awakened my memory of that devastating personal event, since I loved and revered my sister and only sibling enormously. Afterwards I wrote a personal account of the event, thinking I might submit it for publication, but I never did. I’ve lost the original computer file but below is a copy of the printed version for anyone interested. (And my apologies in advance for the five page length.)


2016-11-28: A look back at Amendment 3

Amendment 3, which aimed to raise Missouri’s lowest-in-the nation cigarette tax by 60 cents a pack over four years, went down to defeat, 59.2% to 40.8% (or 1,609,953 votes to 1,107,716) on November 8th, 2016. At least 75% of the money raised was to have been dedicated to early childhood education programs, said to be currently underfunded, with some also going to early childhood health and smoking prevention programs. It would have closed a tax loophole which presently allows smaller tobacco companies not part of the Master Settlement Agreement to sell more competitively in the state.

The primary organizers of Amendment 3, Raise Your Hands for Kids, received $12.1 million of its nearly $13 million in contributions from Reynolds American tobacco. This was partly responsible for generating opposition from many tobacco control and smoke-free air advocacy groups, among others.


Ron Leone

The amendment was also opposed by the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, led by Executive Director Ron Leone. It wanted to protect the tax loophole currently enjoyed by smaller tobacco brands to maintain profits, and spearheaded a competing proposal, Proposition A.

This was for a more modest cigarette tax increase in increments totaling only 23 cents a pack by 2021 with revenue being deposited in the state’s Transportation Infrastructure Fund.

According to Ballotpedia, two tobacco companies benefiting from the current tobacco tax exemptions, Cheyenne International and XCaliber International donated a combined $4.8 million to the PAC supporting Proposition A and opposing Amendment 3.

On November 8th, Proposition A was defeated 55.3% to 44.7% (1,494,886 votes to 1,210,199).


Dr. Anthony Pearson

There were strong arguments in favor of Amendment 3, such as those featured in an in-depth blog called The Skeptical Cardiologist by Anthony C. Pearson, M.D., of St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis.

Reviewing them makes me wonder if the defeat of Amendment 3 wasn’t a significant lost opportunity. At the same time, I believe the funding should have been specifically dedicated to reducing smoking prevalence in the state by proven successful advertising campaigns and helping smokers quit. Also the entire proposed cigarette tax increase – preferably a dollar rather than 60 cents – needed to go into effect at once, and not be spread over four years in 15 cent increments.

2016-11-03 StLotA: “Election 2016: Pros and cons of Missouri’s Proposition A, the 23 cent proposed tobacco tax”

I just listened to today’s St. Louis on the Air, devoted to discussing the two tobacco tax increase proposals on the November 8th ballot. I thought that Stacy Reliford of the American Cancer Society gave a fine performance against smooth-tongued Ron Leone, Executive Director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, despite his being well armed with facts.

But he did better in the second half of the broadcast when debating Jane Dueker, an attorney representing Constitutional Amendment 3 (sponsored by Raise Your Hands For Kids, or RYH4K), a group advocating for early childhood education.

So far, I can only find a link to the first half of the broadcast at and I’ve reproduced that below. You can listen to the full broadcast by going to the above link and scrolling down.

Ron Leone su_D03_leoneMUG_0922

Ron Leone

Note: Ron Leone has changed quite a bit since the black and white photo I have of him on file (at left), which I used in my blog of November 1st. But he still has considerably more hair than me, and he doesn’t look so evil now!)

“On Tuesday, Nov. 1, St. Louis on the Air hosted a moderated conversation in the Community Room at St. Louis Public Radio about Amendments 3, 4 and 6 as well as Proposition A. This was an effort to inform voters on statewide ballot issues they would see on Nov. 8.

The third part of the conversation centered on Proposition A, which would increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products a total of 23 cents per pack by 2021. The proceeds of the tax would go to fund transportation infrastructure.

This measure is one of two tobacco tax-related measures on Missouri’s ballot. The other is Constitutional Amendment 3.

During this part of the conversation, we heard from one proponent and one opponent of Proposition A. Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, represented the “pro” side of the argument. Stacy Reliford, the Missouri Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, represented the “con” side of the argument.

Want an in-depth, objective analysis of what the amendment would do? Read this story from St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies: “Rival tobacco tax proposals focus all their energies on Missouri’s Amendment 3.

Below, please find major “pro” and “con” arguments summarized.

PRO: Ron Leone wants people to vote “Yes” on Proposition A. Here are his main points:

Ron Leone 110216 cropped slsh

Ron Leone is a proponent of Proposition A
Photo credit Kelly Moffitt, St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association was tired of having to fight “outrageous and unfair” tobacco taxes every 2-4 years and hopes this incrementally increasing tax will reduce the need to fight such measures and protect the MPCA.

  • By 2021, the tax will have increased 135%, which is considered “fair and reasonable” because it will keep Missouri at a competitive tax advantage over our eight border states.
  • The tax will generate $100 million, which will go toward fixing Missouri’s roads and bridges. It does not solve lack of funding for MODOT, but would help.
  • There appears to be no other transportation funding fix coming down the pike.
  • People come to Missouri to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products, which generates sales tax, tobacco tax and motor fuels tax. This tax will ensure the state’s prices stay competitive so that people from other border states will still come here and spend money.
  • The proposition has a “rollback” clause that if anyone tries to pass another tobacco tax by initiative petition, this tax will revert to zero. The MPCA did not want to pass this proposition to protect itself one year and have it undone the next.
  • If both Proposition A and Amendment 3 pass, it is unclear what will happen: either the higher tax cancels the other tax out or the taxes will be cumulative. The courts will decide.

Essentially, Ron Leone wants people to vote “Yes” on Proposition A because he thinks smaller, incremental tax increases on tobacco will keep Missouri competitive and bring spenders here from other states while also garnering money to invest in transportation infrastructure.

CON: Stacy Reliford urges a “No” vote on Proposition A. Here are her main points:


Stacy Reliford is an opponent of Proposition A
Photo credit Kelly Moffitt, St. Louis Public Radio

  • The amount of the proposed tax increase is not designed to reduce smoking. Only bigger, more substantial tax increases of $1 or more impact consumer behavior.
  • The proposition was written by those in the tobacco industry, and those who profit from selling cigarettes and consumers’ health was not in mind.
  • This will only move Missouri to being 49th instead of 51st in cheapest cigarettes in the country and that is holding all other tobacco prices constant.
  • It does not make sense to sell cigarettes to boost the state’s economy, when cigarette use in our state costs $644 million in Medicaid alone.
  • Per the proposition’s “rollback clause,” any other tobacco tax only has to make it on the ballot to be repealed — it doesn’t even have to pass. That could cut the transportation funding right away.
  • Not knowing the complete and total outcome of what this vote means — if the tax would or would not be compounded with Amendment 3 should they both pass — is dangerous for voters to approve.
  • This proposition is really about discouraging the state from ever raising taxes on tobacco enough to dissuade consumers from buying and using them.

Essentially, Stacy Reliford wants people to vote “no” on Proposition A because the tax will not effectively dissuade consumers from purchasing and using tobacco, which has proven harmful for people’s health and costly for the state.

Want to read more pro/cons about Missouri ballot measures? Read these perspectives about Constitutional Amendment 6 and  Constitutional Amendment 4.”

2016-10-31 P-D LTE: “Amendment 3 is not what it appears to be”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Letters to the editor, Oct 31, 2016 (12 comments)

Amendment 3 is not what it appears to be

I thought surely I was having a bad dream when I read the Post-Dispatch’s support (Oct. 24) for Constitutional Amendment 3 — the Trojan horse masquerading as a worthy source of funding for early childhood health and education programs.

Ever since 2006 when the Missouri Stem Cell Amendment was passed, I have had a good dream — a bright and hopeful dream — of research that could result in cures for diseases such as type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s and others. But the many strings attached to this amendment could set back earlier victories that opened the way for critical medical research. The fact that it is bankrolled by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. should be a clue that this is not what it appears to be.

If the Post-Dispatch is so certain that its judgment trumps that of organizations such as Washington University, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and many others of equal pedigree on record opposing the amendment, could it not at least make mention that others have thoughtful and legitimate reasons to take exception — and why?

While I would never dispute the need for funding for early childhood education, it seems clear that this is not the way to do it.

I urge voters to consider other editorial voices of the state’s major newspapers who see the proposition for the sham that it is.

Marianna Riley • Webster Groves

2016 ballot tobacco tax proposals: Vote No on both

There’s a heated debate going on regarding two dueling proposals on the November 8th ballot, Constitutional Amendment 3 and Proposition A, both aimed at raising Missouri’s present lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax. I’m personally voting “NO” on both, as explained below, but I also list pro and con reasons provided by others.

First, it’s worth comparing our state’s tax with that of surrounding states and also provide some historical perspective:

Missouri's cigarette tax versus that in 8 adjoining states

Missouri’s 17 cents per pack cigarette tax versus that in the 8 adjoining states. Average of 8 = $1.05. New York, at $4.35, is highest nationally. 

The current Missouri state tax is 17 cents a pack, agreed to in a deal in 1993 between former House Speaker, Bob Griffin (who was later indicted and jailed on bribery and other charges), and the late John Britton, the formidable lobbyist for the now-defunct Tobacco Institute. The agreement was to raise the tobacco tax by 4 cents for school nurses in exchange for not raising it further. (ref: 2010/11/24 P-D OpEd:”Cigarette Taxes – Missouri can’t afford to be last” .)

Ron Leone su_D03_leoneMUG_0922

Ron Leone

Several attempts to raise it significantly, in part as a way to deter smoking and cut smoking rates in Missouri, have met resolute and successful opposition. A leading opponent is Ron Leone, Executive Director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (MPCA) ( since tobacco sales are important to his members. (See, for example, this 2012 blog “Missouri keeps tobacco tax as the lowest in the nation.”)

Below are detailed descriptions of the two tobacco-related measures with commentary added:

Constitutional Amendment 3 (Raise Your Hands For Kids, aka RYH4K):  
Cigarette tax primarily funding early childhood education (at least 75% mandated), childhood health programs (10%-15%), and smoking cessation and prevention programs (5%-10%).  The additional 60 cent cigarette tax, reached after 4 years in 15 cents/year increments for a total of 77 cents, would put MO at 39th place in the current state list, ahead of neighboring NB, KY, and TN.
In addition, an equity assessment fee of 67 cents per pack is being assessed on any “Non-participating manufacturer” in the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), inflation adjusted up each year. (This applies to the smaller tobacco companies (see below) which were not included in the MSA with states Attorney Generals, which requires substantial annual payments to the states). 
I personally believe that any increase in cigarette taxes, which should be done as a single tax hike for maximum impact and not phased in, should be targeted towards the following goals:
1. Deterring would-be smokers from ever starting by aggressive anti-tobacco advertising
2. Large enough to persuade at least some smokers to quit, and perhaps
3. Offer subsidized or free quit smoking programs.
This will ensure that over time, provided the newly-funded programs are designed to be successful, the number of Missouri smokers and tax revenue raised from cigarettes will both fall in unison.
The largest financial supporter of this amendment is R.J. Reynolds, which I surmise had a hand in writing it, such as phasing in the tax increase over four years, and especially for adding the “equity assessment fee” of 67 cents per pack on smaller tobacco companies, on top of the 60 cent increase, in hopes of putting them out of business.  Normally, tobacco companies fight tooth and nail against proposals to raise tobacco taxes, but R.J. Reynolds has to date reportedly spent over $12 million supporting this initiative.
I’m not enthusiastic about using such taxes to fund unrelated programs, however worthwhile, because then you have a new source of funding (smokers) which this new program ideally will want to maintain.
In addition, Amendment 3 prohibits any money from being spent on issues relating to abortion, stem cells, and tobacco related research, as defined below:

Section 54(b). 2. …. None of the funds collected, distributed,  or allocated from the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund shall be expended, paid or granted to or on behalf of existing or proposed activities, programs, or initiatives that involve abortion services including performing, inducing, or assisting with abortions, as defined in law, or encouraging patients to have abortions, referring patients for abortions not necessary to save the life of the mother, or development of drugs, chemicals, or devices intended to be used to induce an abortion. None of the funds collected … shall be expended, paid or granted to or on behalf of any abortion clinic, abortion clinic operator, or outpatient healthcare facility that provides abortion services, unless such services are limited to medical emergencies. No funds …. shall be used for human cloning or research, clinical trials, or therapies or cures using human embryonic stem cells, as defined in Article III, section 38(d). No funds … shall be used for tobacco related research of any kind.
groups oppose the Raise Your Hand for Kids amendment, including Tobacco Free Missouri. Dena Ladd, Executive Director of Missouri Cures, listed them in an October 23rd, 2016, St. Louis Post-Dispatch OpEd: Why medical research advocates are so concerned about Amendment 3.  

For balance, here’s a link to an October 20th, 2016, St. Louis Post-Dispatch OpEd in support of RYH4K by Richard Patton, director of Vision for Children at RiskMore important than the well-being of our children?
It should also be noted that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board is recommending a YES vote on both Amendment 3 and Proposition A, after flip-flopping twice on Amendment 3 earlier in the year (see Riverfront Times Sept. 27th story critical of the Post-Dispatch).

A person I respect and former Missouri House member, who now heads a local group with divided views among its members, wrote to me as follows:
“Members who have fought year after year for investment in early childhood education are supporting it – they are tired of waiting for our General Assembly to address our outdated, unfair, and inadequate revenue system. While the General Assembly continues to tax cut year after year – a billion dollars in cuts over the past 15 years approximately – essential programs languish, and only three percent of our children are in high quality early childhood education. We are structuring ourselves to fail in so many ways!

Members who oppose Amendment 3 generally think it’s a ploy by Big Tobacco to make more money and that the early childhood advocates are being played. Several have a hotbutton issue that turns them against 3 – the definition of abortion in the ballot measure language, fears of some slippery slope on stem cell research (an argument that I do not find persuasive), wishes for a larger tobacco tax from a “what works in comprehensive tobacco control” perspective, etc.).”

Proposition A: 

The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (MPCA), a trade group representing many independent gas stations and convenience stores, is leading the opposition to Amendment 3 and is backing a competing – and substantially smaller – cigarette tax, phased in over four years, that will appear on the November ballot as Proposition A. Not surprisingly, it leaves in place the current exemption for any “Non-participating manufacturer” in the Master Settlement Agreement which are specifically targeted in the competing RYH4K ballot initiative.

The two major financial supporters of this proposal are reportedly North Carolina-based Cheyenne International and XCaliber International of Oklahoma. Cheyenne (Brands: Aura, Cheyenne, Decade) has sent $2.8 million to the fight, while XCaliber (Brands: Echo, Exeter, Edgefield) has contributed $2.9 million.

Under Proposition A, the additional tax on a 20 pack of cigarettes will increase over a period of four years as follows:

13-cents-per-pack on January 1st, 2017, i.e. 30 cents total state tax
An additional 5-cents-per-pack on January 1st, 2019, to 18-cents-per-pack for 35 cents total
An additional 5-cents-per-pack on January 1st, 2021, to 23-cents-per-pack for 40 cents total

These increases will not apply to inventory as of December 30th in any previous year.

In addition to leaving in place the current pricing windfall of the brands mentioned above, what renders Proposition A totally unacceptable is the following language it contains:
6. The additional taxes levied in subsections 1 and 2 of this section shall immediately, automatically and permanently be repealed and reduced to zero under any of the following events:
(1.) In the event any tax or fee increase on some or all cigarettes or other tobacco products is officially certified to be placed on any local or statewide ballot by the Secretary of State or any other election official at any time; or
(2.) In the event any provision of subsections of 1 through 9 of this section is ruled null and void, invalid, unlawful, severable or unconstitutional for any reason by any state or federal court of law. 
What this means is that if a political subdivision at any level even works to put an increase on the ballot, the state cigarette tax levied through this amendment is repealed.  This has been described as a poison pill.  There will never be an increase over this amount without this proposed increase being nullified.  
Unsurprisingly, Proposition A leaves in place the current exemption for a “Non-participating manufacturer” in the Master Settlement Agreement which is targeted in the competing RYH4K ballot initiative.

2016-09-11 P-D Letters: Pro vs Con re. raising legal age to buy tobacco products

Mr. Tom Sullivan wrote a letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, published on September 8th, critical of St. Louis County Councilman Sam Page for his legislation raising the age to legally purchase tobacco and related products from 18 to 21. I found his arguments unconvincing, and given my own support for these efforts wrote a letter in reply. I’m delighted it was published in the prime first spot in today’s newspaper.
Below I’ve reproduced my published reply, followed by Mr. Sullivan’s original letter:

Letters to the editor


Mike O’Mara, St. Louis County Council Chairman (left) and Sam Page, Vice-Chairman, listen to public testimony during a regular weekly session of the County Council in the County Government Center in Clayton. Photo: Sid Hastings

Council members should be praised for raising tobacco age  
Sept. 11, 2016 
On-line comments:(2)

Tom Sullivan’s letter (“Doctors should worry about more important things than tobacco age limit” Th. Sept. 8) criticizes St. Louis County Council Member Sam Page, a medical doctor, for his legislation raising the legal age to buy tobacco and e-cigarette products from 18 to 21. Sullivan suggests that medical professionals should focus instead on reducing the number of people who die each year from medical mistakes or from hospital-acquired infections (250,000 and 100,000 respectively).
While important concerns, Sullivan ignores the death and suffering caused by smoking and secondhand smoke. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes more than 480,000 deaths annually to these causes.
A 2015 Institute of Medicine report, Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products, contains compelling evidence of the significant public health benefits of raising the tobacco sales age to 21.
It estimated that “if the minimum age of legal access were raised now to 21 nationwide, there would be approximately 223,000 fewer premature deaths, 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer, and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost for those born between 2000 and 2019.”
The report concluded that “raising the (age) to 21 will reduce tobacco use initiation, particularly among adolescents 15 to 17 years of age; improve the health of Americans across the lifespan; and save lives.”
Dr. Page and his fellow council members supporting this legislation deserve praise and not criticism.

Martin Pion • Ferguson
President, Missouri GASP

Doctors should worry about more important things than tobacco age limit     Th. Sept. 8, 2016 
The proposal to raise the age from 18 to 21 to buy tobacco products and electronic smoking devices in St. Louis County was given final approval at Tuesday’s meeting of the County Council (“County sets 21 as minimum age to buy tobacco, vaping products,” Sept. 7)
It was rushed through despite many unanswered questions.
The legislation was sponsored by Councilman Sam Page, D-Creve Coeur, who is a medical doctor. Many other doctors, hospitals and medical associations supported the proposal. Raising the age won’t make any difference, but supporters want to pretend it will keep young people from smoking. Given that marijuana, cocaine and heroin are readily available to all ages in this area, raising the age to buy legal tobacco and smoking products will hardly stop anyone under 21 seeking to acquire them.
Rather than being concerned about the age restriction proposal, there are other matters that medical people and organizations might give some priority to. A study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Medical School found so many people dying from medical mistakes it was the third largest cause of death in this country — behind heart disease and cancer. In their study released this year, researchers claimed more than 250,000 people die each year due to preventable medical mistakes.
Hospital-acquired infections are another big problem. According to Consumers Union, more than 2 million hospital patients are victims of hospital-acquired infections each year and more than 100,000 of them die. Adding insult to injury, these patients are usually charged by the hospitals for the treatment required to fight the infections. According to one study, the average charge is $185,260.
Doctors and hospitals should be more concerned with the serious problems they are causing rather than the age of people who can buy tobacco and smoking products.

Tom Sullivan  •  University City

2016-09-06: St. Louis County approves 21 and over law to buy tobacco, e-cig products

At tonight’s St. Louis County Council meeting, council members voted 5 to 1, with one member absent, to approve bill no. 199, authored by council member Dr. Sam Page. It raises from 18 to 21 the age at which one can legally purchase cigarettes and similar items, including e-cigarettes.

During the Public Comment portion before the vote, because so many had signed up to speak, each person was limited to one minute and most of those testifying wanted the council to drop the inclusion of e-cigarettes while generally supporting the bill otherwise.

One after another spoke of former smokers suffering from COPD or similar diseases who had been cured after they started using e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes were also claimed to have helped smokers quit. Their safety was also emphasized with numerous speakers referring to scientific studies showing them to be 95% safer than regular cigarettes.

Bill Hannegan, a staunch opponent of smoke-free air laws, argued that the council should respect the rights of 18 year olds.

Council members listened but were evidently swayed more by arguments that such laws had already been passed in many other cities and some states and were shown to work. Voting for the bill were:

Sponsor, Dr. Sam Page (D), District 2
Colleen Wasinger (R), District 3
Michael O’Mara (D), District 4
Pat Dolan (D), District 5
Kevin O’Leary (D), District 6

Voting against: Mark Harder (R), District 7

Absent: Hazel Erby (D), District 1

After the council adjourned Dr. Page gave an interview, captured in the still image from video I shot below.


Bill sponsor, Dr. Sam Page (center), being interviewed by Post-Dispatch reporter Steve Giegerich (L) plus another reporter after council adjournment

My own testimony, which I drastically revised after learning that comments would be limited to 1 minute, focused on the fact that advertising for e-ciagettes wasn’t stressing any claimed benefits of quitting regular cigarettes. Instead it was stressing sex appeal and the “freedom to have a cigarette without guilt,” to quote a Blu e-cigarette ad. (Please see my testimony below, following this link to reporter Steve Giegerich’s Post-Dispatch story here: St. Louis County Council moves minimum age to purchase tobacco, vaping products to 21.)


Testimony to St. Louis County Council by Martin Pion, President, MoGASP
Tuesday, September 6, 2016.

Hon. Council Members and County Executive Steve Stenger:

I applaud council member Sam Page for introducing Bill No. 199 to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco and vaping products to 21. I’m also delighted that it has broad bipartisan council support, and I hope that includes my council member, Hazel Erby.

Any constructive effort to discourage the use of these products is important for the health and safety not only of the potential user, but also of exposed employees.

Many comments last week from vaping supporters asked for those products to be exempted on the grounds they help smokers quit. The way they’re being marketed tells a different story .


Jenny McCarthy in Blu e-cigarette ad


Virginia Slims ad, circa early 1980s

This is a 2013 Blu e-cigarettes ad, featuring actress & model Jenny McCarthy, with the tag line:

“Freedom to have a cigarette without the guilt.”

Compare that to this 1980s ad for Virginia Slims, with the tag line:

“You’ve come a long way, baby” emphasizing women’s lib.

Passing this bill shows that public health and welfare have come a long way in St. Louis County.

Thank you.


E-cigarette regulation progress

Lynn Johnston’s For Better or for Worse comic strip of Friday, June 17th, 2016,  continues a smoking theme when Georgia, who marries Phil Richards, Eli Patterson’s younger brother, walks out on the deck and catches him smoking … or does she? With sleight of hand and quick reflexes the cigarette is not visible in the first three panels, only to reappear as Phil gasps for breath in the fourth.

For Better or for Worse fb160617

Phil is trying to fool Georgia, just like the E-cigarette industry is trying to fool the public about their product, claiming it’s to unhook smokers from regular cigarettes while using sex to sell them. (See, for example, 2013-07-12 P-D: New health concern about e-cigarettes?)

The recent announcement by the FDA that it would finally move to regulate E-cigarettes is welcome news. As recently noted, at present it’s more like the wild west. The E-cigarette industry, which has been growing by leaps and bounds, responded unsurprisingly by criticizing the move, vowing to fight it. After all, regulation is likely to crimp industry profitability, but public health and welfare should come first. The original rationale for E-cigarettes as helping smokers to quit is proving to be a fantasy, and regulation is definitely needed and overdue.

The FDA put out a News Release on May 5, 2016, with the following headline:

FDA takes significant steps to protect Americans from dangers of tobacco through new regulation

The move was met by opposition on-line and in the Congress. Jacob Sullum, a senior editor at Reason magazine, wrote a strong critique on titled:

The FDA’s Deadly E-Cigarette Regulations
The agency’s new rules threaten products that offer a much safer alternative to smoking.

On May 10th a lawsuit was filed by NICOPURE LABS in Florida arguing that ‘the FDA overstepped its authority under the 2009 Tobacco Control Act to include products that are “neither made nor derived from tobacco nor intended for human consumption.” ‘

There’s also reportedly push-back from Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), according to a May 19th news article by reporter Guy Bentley in the Daily Caller:

GOP Senator Challenges FDA On Crushing E-Cig Regulations

Let’s hope that cool heads prevail and the public health and not industry profits take precedence.

2016-05-11 P-D: “St. Louis County drawing fire as indoor tobacco ban extension continues to go up in smoke”

Weatherbird No Smoking 573375b8a5aa1.image

Dan Martin’s Weatherbird says “NO SMOKING!”

[The article below by reporter Steve Giegerich was followed the day after by an editorial, Revoke St. Louis County smoking-ban exemptions, accompanied on-line by this Weatherbird cartoon.]

Here’s reporter Steve Giegerich’s opening paragraph in the story below:

“Charlie Dooley was ensconced as county executive, St. Louis fans had a rooting interest in a local NFL franchise and Ferguson was still an obscure suburb when a proposal to tighten a 2011 anti-smoking ordinance first appeared on the agenda of the St. Louis County Council.”

The headline below the fold on the front page of today’s print edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was “Inaction on indoor tobacco ban exemptions draws fire,” and the story’s first paragraph provided an unusual historical introduction to Giegerich’s story. (I can vouch for Ferguson formerly being “an obscure suburb” three years ago because that’s where I live!)

When County Councilman Mike O’Mara, currently the county council chairman, introduced this measure it was hailed by smoke-free air advocates because it was at last going to address some of the most egregious remaining inequities when it comes to protection from secondhand smoke. Instead, Councilman O’Mara has regrettably sat on his hands and done nothing, apparently after getting burned in his initial attempts to move forward with his bill. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch story by reporter Paul Hampel describes a meeting between bar owners and O’Mara which apparently brought this effort to a halt. I wrote about it here:
2013-02-07 P-D: “Bar owners weigh in on move to eliminate smoking ban exemptions in St. Louis County”

Below is today’s story by reporter, Steve Giegerich. There’s an unexpected punch line at the very end.

Stenger & O'Mara (on R) 573291792a6a1.image

St. Louis County Executive, Steve Stenger (L) and County Council Chairman, Mike O’Mara, listen during public testimony at the weekly county council meeting on May 3rd, 2016.  
 Photo by Sid Hastings

CLAYTON • Charlie Dooley was ensconced as county executive, St. Louis fans had a rooting interest in a local NFL franchise and Ferguson was still an obscure suburb when a proposal to tighten a 2011 anti-smoking ordinance first appeared on the agenda of the St. Louis County Council.
That was 39 months ago.

Week in and week out, legislation to reconsider and possibly revoke exemptions granted to about 135 businesses under the original law has been set before the council.

And week in and week out since February 2013, the council has tabled the measure.

Anti-tobacco activists, their patience tested by a three-year wait, are calling on the council to act.

The time has come, they say, for an amendment to the smoking ban that will bring the county into conformance with St. Louis. Indoor use of tobacco is prohibited in the city at all but two locations — designated smoking rooms in the membership-only Missouri Athletic Club and the Lumiere Place casino.

The Trophy Room, a St. Louis watering hole near the county line, earlier this year failed to convince a judge that small business owners in the city were unfairly singled out when the 2011 exemptions expired.

Dr_Charles_Rehm slsh_1598796070

Dr. Charles Rehm

Dr. Charles Rehm, chief administrative officer with the St. Louis region’s Mercy Health and a longtime advocate for smoke-free workplaces, is frustrated by the county’s reluctance to align tobacco-free policies in the city and county.

“We’ve made such great progress,” Rehm said. “We’re kind of at the goal line. We need to push it in the end zone and be done with it.”

The County Council, however, seems content to keep playing out the clock.

Councilman Mike O’Mara, the bill sponsor, fully concurs that the county at some point needs to “level the playing field.”

But, preaching caution, O’Mara, D-Florissant, wants to gauge the effectiveness of the expanded city smoking ban before moving the county legislation toward passage.

“We need to wait,” said O’Mara, whose district includes several small, exempted bars. “We have to look at the broader picture.”

Nursing homes exempt

The county law as currently written provides waivers to establishments that collect under 25 percent of gross revenue from the sale of food.

Pion 57329179861b4.image

Martin Pion, President of Missouri GASP Inc., addressing the county council urging them to expand smoke-free air protections.  
 Photo by Sid Hastings

Private and semi-private rooms at nursing and extended-care facilities are also exempt, a provision that spurred Ferguson resident Martin Pion to address the issue at the May 3 County Council meeting.

“The idea of my ending up in a nursing home where indoor smoking is still permitted is a pretty horrifying prospect,” Pion, the co-founder of Missouri GASP — Group Against Smoking Pollution — told council members.

Establishments that serve alcohol or provide care for the infirm may constitute the bulk of the 135 smoking waivers spread across the county.

But the primary beneficiaries of the exceptions are River City Casino and Hotel in the Lemay area and Hollywood Casino in Maryland Heights.

The city and county have stipulated that Lumiere, River City and Hollywood casinos will become smoke-free only if St. Charles County — home to Ameristar Casino Resort — adopts an ordinance to block tobacco use on the other side of the Missouri River.

O’Mara says the absence of a statewide smoking ban makes it difficult to structure a comprehensive regional approach to indoor tobacco use (28 states now have partial or total no-smoking statutes on the books).

Gatton 57329179c114d.image

Charles Gatton studying the agenda at the meeting.  
 Photo by Sid Hastings

Charles Gatton, chairman of Tobacco Free St. Louis, says the absence of state law makes it incumbent on the St. Louis County Council to seize the initiative.

He accuses the council of tacitly promoting a double standard by ignoring the issue for three years.

“Essentially, the (2011) bill was saying there were two classes of citizens,” Gatton told council members last month. “Those deserving of clean air where they worked and those that weren’t — the employees of casinos, taverns, nursing homes and the like.”

Pointing out that lung cancer remains the most lethal form of cancer, Rehm questions why the county continues to support the selective application of an ordinance that subjects hourly-wage earners to secondhand smoke.

“It puts a real burden on people in the service industry,” Rehm said. “It’s one thing if someone wants to smoke in their home. But the people who work in the service industry are not empowered. And in addition to not being empowered, (businesses) are also saying, ‘We are going to put you at risk.’ Why do we not have some empathy for folks that have to work in that environment?”

Rehm said the council aversion to lifting waivers that permit patrons in scores of bars to light up at will is inconsistent with the comprehensive public health model the county introduced in 2015.

“It’s almost shameful that (the county) hasn’t acted,” the physician said.

Labeling it a “political” discussion, a spokesman for County Executive Steve Stenger turned aside a request for an interview on the subject with public health department officials.

Voters approved ban

The origin of the stalled bill dates to a 2009 ballot initiative that saw county voters approve a public smoking ban by a 2-1 ratio.

In the spirit of regional cooperation, St. Louis agreed to extend the decision of county voters to businesses operating within the city limits.

The law granted certain types of businesses in both the city and county — notably the casinos — a five-year exemption from the no-smoking rules. That exemption lapsed on Jan. 1.

O’Mara believes the council needs time to address the economic impact of the no-smoking legislation before imposing a countywide ban.

Gatton rejects that premise, pointing to landmark reporting by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other economic studies that debunk the notion tobacco prohibitions cut into business profits.

“The restaurants (that bar smoking) here will pretty much tell you that their sales went up,” Gatton said. “It clearly hasn’t put anyone out of business. If anything, it has increased their business.”

On the flip side, the presence of smoke at one tobacco-tolerant establishment recently became a deal-breaker for friends out for dinner and drinks.

The haze that enveloped the friends as they entered prompted the men to regroup at a venue where breathing was easy, recalled a member of the party — Mike O’Mara.

(Note: There are plenty of Comments from foes of smoke-free air posted following the on-line story.)


2016-03-18 P-D: Cig. addiction – “For Better or for Worse” & Mo Senate

Reminder: For a comment to be considered it must be accompanied by your full name: first name only or a pseudonym is not normally accepted. Please limit your comment to 1,000 characters (including spaces), and also avoid epithets and personal attacks.

Elly Paterson is the main female character in the comic strip, For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston. Her chain-smoking brother, Phil, is being pressured to quit smoking but isn’t finding it easy. Finally he’s down to his last cigarette before facing a smoke-free future, as illustrated in the Friday, March 18th, comic strip. So what does he do?


Surprise! Yes, he’s weak, and as addicted to nicotine as Missouri’s state legislators are addicted to tobacco industry money. This is revealed starkly in the following table listing donations each state senator has received from Big Tobacco and their allies (cigarette retailers and convenience stores). As noted in a cover letter MoGASP recently received accompanying the following data, “the Missouri Senate is Marlboro Country.” Out of 34 senators, all but one, Sen. Jill Schupp (D-24), have accepted campaign donations from Big Tobacco and/or their allies. Not surprisingly perhaps, Republicans, who control both the Senate and the House, received over 90% of the $394,710 total, but the Democrats still didn’t fare too badly, as shown in the table and detailed information below.

I’m reminded of a leaked 1989-1990 Philip Morris* regional lobbyist report for the southwestern states [ref. 1]  boasting of their success at controlling the Missouri legislature. The lobbyist described it this way:

“MISSOURI: This is a [sic] close [to complete control] as you are going to get. We are members of everything but our contract lobbyist works very closely with the tobacco wholesalers and they do anything we ask for. Surprisingly, the Chamber of Commerce is usually very helpful statewide and on a local level. We work well with the restaurant associations. We sponsored a golf tourney for the wholesalers and a party boat cruise on Lake of the Ozarks with the restaurant folks for the Black Caucus.”

CCI16032016_2 Mo Sen $ list

Missouri State Senator and Tobacco-related donations
Detailed listing by Senate District below

CCI16032016_3 Mo Sen $ alpha
CCI16032016_4 Mo Sen $ alpha

Ref. 1: Philip Morris Southwest Regional Lobbyist Memo 1989-1990, leaked to Doctors Ought to Care (DOC), 2000.

*Philip Morris became Altria in 2003 in a move designed to shield the company from possible crippling tobacco-related lawsuits.